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0km - Pablo Lastras (Movistar) will take the leader's red jersey as well as the stage win today.
0km - The peloton is led over by AG2R's Nicolas Roche and Rabobank's Matti Breschel almost two minutes down.
0km - Chavanel takes second place ahead of Irizar and Pidgornyy. They didn't do themselves any favours during those last few kilometres when they argued over tactics.
0km - Lastras points to the Sky as he crosses the line - in all likelihood in remembrance of his late team-mate Xavier Tondo, who was killed in a freak domestic accident earlier this year.
0.5km - Lastras knows he's done it - and he used all his experience there to win this one...
1km - Pablo Lastras passes under the 1km-to-go banner and the win is his: his three chasers are now fighting for second place.
2km - The three chasers are arguing and it looks like they're going to give up. The gap is back to 12 seconds.
3km - The gap is only 10 seconds now and it looks like Lastras has cramp in his left thigh. He's slowing, but now giving it his all. It's going to be touch and go.
4km - Lastras now in full time trial mode. He last won a stage in the Vuelta back in 2002 - in fact, he won two. Can he make it a hat-trick?
5km - The gap is down to 16 seconds with 5km to go. This is going to be a close one. It's in Chavanel's interest to ride as hard as he can, but the Frenchman doesn't want to do all the work and implores his fellow chasers to lend a hand.
6km - The Spanish veteran now has 23 seconds on the chasing trio and so he's riding himself into the virtual race lead and the stage victory today.
8km - Lastras is using all his experience in carving out a little gap. He has 10 seconds over Irizar, Chavanel and Pidgornyy.
10km - The slimmed-down peloton cross the summit 1:50 down on Lastras. Behind, there are riders scattered all over the place - including red jersey Daniele Bennati. There are going to be some big losses today.
11km - Lastras breaks clear near the summit to take the maximum mountain points atop the Alto de la Santa. He's opened up a little lead and will now start the descent and his quest for a third Vuelta stage victory.
12km - The gap is coming down: 1:50 at the latest check, with Chavanel now happy to sit in Lastras' wheel off the back of the bunch.
12km - David de la Fuenta of Geox attacks! The Spaniard jumps clear of the peloton in what looks like to be a highly futile effort...
13km - Vacansoleil's Stijn Devolder has hit the wall - the Belgian is completely all over the place as he staggers on his bike up this Cat.3 climb. A combination of the slope and the heat clearly getting to him.
13km - Sky are on the front to keep Britain's Bradley Wiggins out of trouble. Wiggins doesn't want a repeat of that crash in the Tour, where he fell and broke his collarbone after just a week.
14km - Chavanel leads the four escapees. They have 2:40.
15km - The peloton has strung out on this final climb, many riders uninterested in the GC calling it a day early. Green jersey Chris Sutton, who won yesterday, is one of the riders to drop back off the front.
16km - The lead is 3:12 and the bunch has definitely given up the chase.
18km - The leaders are approaching the third category Alto de la Santa.
20km - The peloton cross the finish line 3:45 down on the leaders - but there is still another 20 clicks and that climb before they return to the finish straight for the finish proper in Totana. There's no way the four leaders will get caught now, so take your pick from Chavanel, Lastras, Irizar and Pidgornyy for the win.
22km - The leaders enter Totana for the first time - they will return here for the finish once they've gone up and over the Alto de la Santa. At the second intermediate sprint, Chavanel took the points ahead of Lastras and Pidgornyy.
24km - Both Trofimov and Le Mevel are back on their bikes, although the latter looks like he's riding very gingerly. He landed on his hip and has a gash on his elbow too.
25km - The four leaders are still combining well as they continue ahead with a gap of 3:50. Lastras is the only one amongst them with a Vuelta win to his name, although Chavanel is probably the best bet if it comes down to a sprint.
26km - Mark Cavendish looks really peeved as he rides in a second group off the back of the peloton. He has about four team-mates with him, but it's another bad day for both HTC and Cavendish. Kittel is there too, which discounts him as well for the victory today.
28km - CRASH: a touch of wheels between a Katrusha rider and a Garmin man. Yes, it's Yuri Trofimov and Christophe Le Mevel. That was a high-speed smash on a flat, long straight. Replays show that it was the Russian's fault - he was looking over his shoulder and veered into the path of the Frenchman. It occured right by the entrance of someone's grounds, and a manic dog is barking in disapproval / excitement as the two riders nurse their wounds and exchange curses.
30km - There's a bit of a split in the peloton as the pace hots up. The gap is down to 3:55. Leopard Trek are doing all the work: they want to protect the overall lead of their man Bennati, plus set him up for the sprint in Totana.
35km - RadioShack's Haimar Zubeldia picks up a puncture. The leaders have 4:20 over the peloton and are currently riding along the flat segment ahead of the final intermediate sprint and climb of the day. It looks like they could well stay out today - provided they make it to the summit of the Alto de la Santa in pole position, one of them should win because the finish is at the bottom of the descent.
38km - Skil Shimano's Marcel Kittel, winner of four stages in Poland recently, is struggling to keep up with the pace of the peloton.
40km - Stunning scenery as the peloton snakes its way down the back of the climb along some tree-lined hairpin bends. It's still Leopard's Stuart O'Grady on the front, descending as well as he was climbing. The gap is 4:35.
44km - Those three points over the summit put Irizar level with Paul Martens (Rabobank) at the top of the king of the mountains standings. With one more climb to go before the finish, it looks like Martens will lose the jersey today.
45km - Top three over the Alto del Berro: 1. Mark Irizar (RadioShack), 2. Rusian Pidgornyy (Vacansoleil), 3. Pablo Lastras (Movistar).
46km - At last Cavendish has a team-mate with him. It's Leigh Howard. The sprinter is clearly not comfortable in this heat. Nicolas Edet, who was part of the initial break today, has just been caught by the Leopard Trek-led peloton.
47km - Struggling off the back of the peloton is Britain's Mark Cavendish, who's having a torrid time in this Vuelta. On Saturday he rolled almost three minutes down on his team-mates in the TTT, and on Sunday he was dropped on the final rise and finished 156th.
48km - Back with the bunch, Leopard Trek's Stuart O'Grady sets the pace. Meanwhile, with the leaders, Pablo Lastras just makes one spectator's day when he gives a man, directly, his bidon as a souvenir. A nice touch from the double Vuelta stage-winning veteran Spaniard.
48km - The four leaders pass through the pretty town of El Berro - the roads are ridiculously narrow as they weave in and out of the buildings, it's going to be mayhem when the peloton arrives.
50km - The four leaders are now on to the Cat.3 Alto del Berro. Edet, who was with them initially, is now almost four minutes back and will soon be caught by the peloton.
55km - The peloton rides through a huge olive tree plantation. They are still 5:55 behind the leaders, with Liquigas, Omega Pharma-Lotto and Rabobank setting the pace.
56km - The leading group has dropped Nicolas Edet of Cofidis. The Frenchman went to see the medical car earlier and he's clearly got a slight problem. He's about 20 seconds down on the four escapees.
58km - Chavanel is now the virtual leader of the race after picking up more bonus seconds than Lastras at the first intermediate sprint.
60km - The gap is now 5:55 as Chavanel takes up the pace setting on the front of the leading group.
65km - The first intermediate sprint at Pliego is won by Vacansoleil's Pidgornyy ahead of Chavanel and Lastras.
65km - The race is LIVE NOW on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin Media 521) and is also available on your PC via the Eurosport Player: click here to subscribe
70km - Nicolas Edet, one of the five escapees, drops back to see the medical car. The Frenchman is clearly not happy about something. Meanwhile, back with the peloton, Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) passes through his hometown of Mula, who welcome him with cheers, banners and open arms.
75km - The riders pass through the feeding zone.
80km - The second hour of racing had an average speed of 43 km/h today. The leaders were just pounding along at 70km/h on a slight downhill after the town of Yechar. The gap is coming down, however: 6:33 at the latest check.
85km - The lead is dropping a little: 7:12 at the latest check.
90km - Both Mark Cavendish (HTC) and Carlos Barredo (Rabobank) drop back to see their team cars with what appears to be mechanical problems.
95km - The sun is still burning bright in the deep blue Spanish sky - and it's showing no signs of relenting before the finish in Totana. The current temperature on the road is 35 degrees. Weather report for Totana
100km - The road is heading up now slightly with a gradual rise before the feeding zone. The gap is just under eight minutes.
105km - Incidentally, Pablo Lastras is the virtual leader of the Vuelta on the road. Following Movistar's strong showing in the TTT, Lastras is just 14 seconds down on red jersey Daniele Bennati. The gap for the leading five riders is now 7:30.
110km - Swiss engine Fabian Cancellara has a problem with his bike and needs assistance from his Leopard Trek team car. The average speed for the first hour today was a fast 43.9 km/h.
115km - The five leaders now hold a gap of seven minutes over the bunch, which is being controlled by the Leopard Trek team of race leader Daniele Bennati and Rabobank.
120km - Finally, RadioShack's Markel Irizar is riding his fourth Vuelta and his first since joining RadioShack from Euskaltel back in 2010. The 31-year-old is yet to win a stage in his national race, but won the Ruta del Sol earlier this year in February. Irizar joined RadioShack in order to ride alongside Lance Armstrong: both are testicular cancer survivors.
120km - Let's take a look at the two Spaniards that complete this quintet. Movistar's Pablo Lastras is one of the old men of the peloton - and also one of the most decorated. The 35-year-old has notched wins in all three Grand Tours, including two in his debut Vuelta back in 2002. It's quite some time since Lastras delivered a big win, although he did finish second in stage 11 of this year's Giro.
125km - Sylvain Chavanel is the best-known of these five escapees. The Frenchman is the current national road race champion and has won three stages in the Tour de France, and worn the yellow jersey on two occasions in last year's race. The 32-year-old is riding his third Vuelta and is yet to win a stage in Spain, although he finished a comfortable 16th place in the GC in his debut appearance back in 2007.
125km - The lead is creeping close to the five-minute mark now for these five leaders, who are combining well in the fierce Spanish heat.
130km - Let's take a closer look at the leading riders. Vacansoleil's Rusian Pydgornyy is a veteran 34-year-old Ukrainian riding his first ever Vuelta. He has five minor UCI wins to his name, but nothing since 2008 and no top tens all season. Frenchman Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) is also riding his first Vuelta, but is more than a decade younger at 23. This is his first full year as a professional rider and in April he picked up two top tens in the Tour of Turkey.
135km - Today's stage is very similar to the route used in the Tour of Murcia so many of the riders will be familiar with the terrain. Alberto Contador won this year's Tour of Murcia, but he's not racing in the Vuelta. Geox's Denis Menchov, Murcia victor in 2009, is, however.
140km - This escapee quintet looks to be the day's decisive break: they now have a lead of 2:20 over the peloton.
145km - Spaniards Pablo Lastras (Movistar) and Markel Irizar (RadioShack) join the trio and so we have five riders out in front.
150km - Three riders are now out ahead: Rusian Pydgornyy (Vacansoleil), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Sylvain Chavanel (QuickStep).
155km - Those five riders are now back in the bunch before race radio even got the chance to give them any names. It's 33 degrees out there, and still very active on the front.
160km - Today's stage features two third category climbs towards the finish, each one preceded by an intermediate sprint. A fairly active start today's stage, with five riders pinging off the front. Their names coming up.
164km - They're off! The remaining 197 riders get this show on the road. Yesterday, an ill Matt Goss of HTC was forced to pull out of the race, becoming its first casualty.
12:35 - Daniele Bennati's sixth place was enough to see him leapfrog Leopard Trek team-mate Jakob Fuglsang at the top of the standings. The Italian dedicated his red jersey to his former team-mate Wouter Weylandt, who was killed during this year's Giro. Vuelta: Results and Standings
12:30 - Australia's Chris Sutton (Team Sky) showed his class with a stylish win yesterday after powering past Vincente Reynes of Omega Pharma-Lotto. Report: Sutton surprises favourites with win
12:25 - It's sunny once again in south Spain, with temperatures in the early 30s at the start in Petrer. It's going to be another scorcher in the saddle today...
12:20 - Welcome to live coverage of stage three of the Vuelta a Espana, an undulating 164km ride from Petrer to Totana.